Daniel Everett

Daniel Everett, 32 years old, is an american artist/photographer native from Hudson (Ohio), he now lives in Provo (Utah).

We first discovered his work in 2009 when we published some of his photographs in Bruit de Fond / Background Noise, and we collaborated again with him for the Bartholomew show in 2011. It seemed logical for us to finally publish a book with his own work.

We’re delighted to present you some key elements in order to fully understand his work and to introduce you to his personality throughout this conversation. Enjoy!

What is your background (school, works)?

I received a BFA in photography from Brigham Young University, and then an MFA from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve spent time working as an art assistant, graphic designer, missionary, architectural photographer, and digital art archivist. I’m now a professor of new genres at BYU.

Your work draws a thin line between sculpture and photography, you use the words image or sculpture to credit it; how do you link these two mediums?

I make the distinction purposely slippery in my work. When using those labels on the Internet you are simply requesting a certain perception from your viewer, but in my physical work I’m also interested in a similar kind of slippage. I’m interested in how a photograph changes when treated as a sculptural object and likewise, how the understanding of a sculpture changes when reduced to two dimensions.

Overall, in making my art I’m not concerned with finality. One of the advantages of working digitally is the ability to endlessly revisit and revise work without ever having to ultimately commit. So even after something has been publicly exhibited in a particular form, I’m still open to letting it evolve and exist simultaneously in multiple states.

How are they working together in an exhibition space?

In my shows I generally have photography, sculpture, video, and installation elements all interacting. Despite the differences in medium, everything I do comes from the same place conceptually and it makes sense to me to bring them all into dialogue. When preparing an exhibition, I’m constructing a kind of constellation – using the individual pieces as building blocks to organize something new that functions singularly. In that situation I’m very interested in questions of materiality and scale and the reciprocal relationships between pieces.

What are your actual thoughts and feelings concerning the non places, or anonymous spaces you photographed?

I’m still figuring that out. I think once I do, I’ll be done with it as a subject matter. I believe that all worthwhile work comes from a point of ambivalence or struggle on the part of the artist. In regard to why I feel drawn to that type of space, there is something very appealing to me about blandness, order, and the aesthetics of efficiency. Part of me wants to believe wholeheartedly in the promises and ideals of modernism, but I was born too late for that kind of thinking.

It seems that you have travelled a lot, was it mostly for photographic purpose or just for the wish of discovering new lands?

Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit as an assistant, and also on my own and with my wife. I don’t know how much traveling actually teaches me about the places I visit, but it helps dislocate me from my own context and allows me to see things from a better perspective. When I travel I do always bring photo equipment, but don’t always end up using it.

Do you consider yourself as an American photographer? Do you think you would be doing a similar type of work if you were living in Paris?

No, I don’t think of myself as an American photographer. In my work I’m trying to escape specificity, including the connotations of any particular location or culture. I would hope I’d be making the same work if I were from Paris, but then again I’m not really sure who I would be if I weren’t me – maybe that feels like an American answer.

You said you believe in utopia, which type of utopia and do you think it’s still possible? Is Art a utopia?

A part of me is drawn to the kind of all-or-nothing thinking that leads to manifestoes and compound-based communities, but I also know how those things always turn out. I think for the time being utopia is a personal thing, and maybe art can facilitate that, but as an institution art sometimes feels like just the opposite.

Looking at your pictures it seems that this world is empty, can you tell us about individuality?

I don’t like photographing people – they are too greedy as subjects. They are too specific. In regard to individuality – it feels in conflict or at least inconvenient from an organizational standpoint, but essential from a human one. I think that’s part of the struggle – wanting to both exist and disappear completely at the same time.

You like to bring digital and post prod elements in your final work, what role do these photoshop effects play?

I get tired of only talking about images in terms of what they depict – I also want to talk about them as actual things, in and of themselves. By retaining certain Photoshop elements in my work I’m seeking for a digital equivalent to a Lucio Fontana cut. I want to explore the materiality of a digital file – while also attempting to disrupt or undermine the content.

In The Ontology of The Photographic Image, Andre Bazin describes how the introduction of photography liberated painting from its need to depict reality. I think photography is finally undergoing the same process via these new technologies.

Your work is obviously digital, how important is printed matter for you?

At times, I feel very hesitant to make physical art objects because of how permanent they seem – I feel a sense of anxiety about having to care for something, or store it, or sell it, or encounter it again once my opinions about it have changed. That said however, I recognize that a print and a JPG are not equivalent. I don’t think one is inherently better, but rather they are different experiences and communicate in different ways – and I’m interested in both forms of communication depending on when they feel most appropriate.

How do you see your art practice evolving?

Lately, I’ve been trying to devote my energy to a few larger scale projects. I have a tendency to move in a number of directions at once and I want to counteract that by consciously slowing down the way I work. For now, I’m working on more sculpturally-based pieces that incorporate elements of photography and a new series of videos.

I also still think about quitting the Internet sometimes.

Conversation with Daniel Everett, Copenhagen, March 2012.